Members of Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan and other rights groups yesterday launched a letter-writing campaign, seeking a re-trial for death row inmate Chiu Ho-shun (邱和順), who was reportedly tortured by police into confessing to murder.
The campaign will start in Chiu’s hometown in Miaoli County with a call for members of the public to write letters and postcards to the relevant authorities on Chiu’s behalf, AI Taiwan member Wu Jia-zhen (吳佳臻) said.
People are also encouraged to write letters of support to Chiu, who was convicted in 1989 of abducting and murdering a child two years earlier, Wu said.
Chiu’s mother is expected to appear at the event to speak about her son, whose case has been through several appeals over the past 23 years, the rights groups said.
In July last year, the lengthy process ended with a decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the death sentence against Chiu.
Chiu’s case was selected by AI as part of its “Write For Rights” global campaign, held annually to mark Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, because of the controversy surrounding his conviction.
Documented videos and recordings have shown that Chiu and his alleged accomplices were tortured by police to extract confessions during their four months in detention, according to lawyers familiar with the case.
“There is great urgency in his case,” Wu said, adding that Chiu is the only death row inmate on the list of 12 people selected for the AI campaign this year.
The others include imprisoned Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟); Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman, an Egyptian woman who was attacked by Egyptian soldiers at a protest last year; and imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
“Chiu is on death row and could be executed at any time,” Wu said, comparing his case to that of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶), an Air Force serviceman who was wrongfully executed in 1997 for a murder he did not commit.
The campaign encourages the public to send letters, e-mails or text messages to support individuals around the world who are believed to be suffering human rights abuses.
There are 61 people on death row in Taiwan. In April 2010, the government ended a four-year moratorium on executions, carrying out four death sentences and another five in March last year.
The move drew criticism from the EU and human rights advocates.
Capital punishment remains a highly controversial issue, with about 80 percent of the public opposed to abolition, according to a survey released by the Ministry of Justice in 2010.
However, the survey also showed that 56 percent of the respondents would agree to life imprisonment without parole instead of a death sentence, while 43 percent would oppose such a change.